Project Intake Header
Project Intake Header

What Is Project Intake and Why Do We Need It?

8 min read

Great project ideas can come from anywhere in your organization. Who decides what ideas are worth pursuing and how do they make those decisions? That is where a project intake process comes into play. The goal of this blog post is to explain what a project intake process is, its benefits and tips on how your organization can implement or improve your project intake.

What is a Project Intake Process?

In a world of good ideas and great employees, you can often be overwhelmed by your organization’s project portfolio. The best way to cut through the weeds and to achieve success is to work transparently from the ground up. A clear and defined project intake process can ensure that your portfolio is organized and that you are executing the work that is most important and aligned with your overall corporate strategy. But what exactly is a project intake process?


Broadly speaking, a project intake process is a centralized process to organize the submission and development of project ideas, requests or proposals. It also provides a structure for reviewing and deciding on those requests. This is done by creating a project pipeline, where projects are collected in one central location. These projects are then developed further with the help of experts (as needed) and prioritized for implementation based on your organization’s vision.

By setting up a project intake process, you ensure that everyone knows where to submit new initiatives and how new initiatives are compared with current projects. You can also ensure clear cut communication between teams and management on how and why their projects are (or are not) being implemented at a certain point in time.

Project Intake Diagram

Every project intake process can look a little different, which is why this might not be a one-size-fits-all definition. The fact of the matter is: any project intake process could be the right one for you as long as it achieves the goals that are important to you.

Why Have a Process in the First Place?

Not every process is the same. However, every example of a project intake process should work to make sure that your organization’s project pipeline fits your vision and goals and has been clarified and approved in one central location. Of course, human error or drawbacks can negatively affect the project intake process.

However, it’s worth noting that there is a silver lining: you can start the project intake process with minimal data, and work together to build a sustainable plan. Thus, without further ado, let us answer your questions about why and how you can best structure your own process to fit your organization.

With and without Project Intake through the pandemic

Why, then? Why is it necessary to have a project intake process if it can vary from org to org? The best explanation is to look to the recent past of the COVID-19 pandemic. We found that organizations that had formal project intake processes were much better prepared to adjust to the necessary changes caused by the pandemic.

Let’s look at this in practice: say your organization generally practices ad-hoc project intake, without any sort of formal process. On a superficial level, this means that you can quickly start your projects whenever you like. However, this ignores the reality that your work does not exist within a vacuum. If you start a project without consulting the rest of the enterprise, you could have different criteria for what exactly is accepted. More concretely put, you then set your portion of the organization up to be working at a completely different speed than another part. In actuality, it’s unreasonable to assume that your department can and does function without the help of other departments.

In a situation like the COVID-19 pandemic, where organizations as a whole had to take extraordinary measures to continue functioning, this means that your typical way of working could throw the entire balance of the organization off. When suddenly, a company-wide effort is necessary to function in out-of-the-ordinary circumstances, your particular mode of working could throw a wrench into the larger organization’s plans and goals.

Two people pushing a cube and a sphere, one falling behind

When new priorities need to be set

For example, imagine a company with two major departments: engineering and marketing. Normally, the engineering department continually launches products while marketing is responsible for the promotion of those products and the company’s overall brand awareness.

What happens when delivery bottlenecks occur or personnel are lost, and one or both departments can no longer deliver at their usual pace? Who sets new priorities and specifies which products the remaining resources should focus on? Which advertising campaigns need to be paused in order to free up capacity for the proper marketing of the limited products? How do you coordinate the two departments so that no one ends up working for nothing? Companies that are unable to answer these questions quickly falter and fall behind the competition.

The same company, with a well-established project intake process, would have a clear line of communication between its departments. This would ensure that all remaining funds are spent on projects that bring the most value to the organization.

So, in our experience, it pays off to have a project intake process in place – not just for the success of the company, but also for the peace of mind of everyone involved.

The Phases of Project Intake

Once again, we’d like to emphasize that there isn’t one tried-and-true answer to how project intake should run. This section, however, provides an overview of the general parts of the process:

Phase 1: Project Proposal

As is perhaps obvious, a project intake process needs to start by having projects in the first place. This stage allows projects big and small to come to the forefront. This will often start at the most basic level – naming and clarifying an idea. Next, the project can enter into a time of brainstorming to fully develop the project idea.

Example: Let’s imagine a specific project intake process that is centralized on a physical Kanban board. For the proposal phase, you would fill out a card with basic information about the project and add it to the board.

Phase 2: Project Coaching

If some projects need a little bit more time or attention to fully develop the proposal, some project intake processes may implement a phase of project coaching. Here, experts help by giving input about how the project can better fit with the organization’s vision. Your organization can make the process as painless as possible by setting clear criteria on how the proposals should be submitted including strategic criteria that can be used in later stages to evaluate and prioritize the projects.

Example: In our example, this is where more detailed info is added to the Kanban cards with help from our colleagues, making sure we are ready for the next stage.

Phase 3: Project Evaluation

Ah, the crucial stage of project evaluation: where your beloved projects are put to the test. Ultimately, this phase is where projects are judged as to whether they are aligned with the company strategy and if they are ready for execution. Project evaluation happens in one centralized location, like in a PMO or during a board meeting of your decision-making team. And with a PPM tool, you can visually track the projects being evaluated.

Example: In our Kanban board, we would now move proposed projects into the “ready for review” phase, or something of the sort.

Phase 4: Project Prioritization

Accepted projects are then prioritized based on what is in the current portfolio. This can be on any basis, like from client need to strategy fit. It should also be noted that there can and should be a special, fast-track process for urgent projects, which will then also play into their prioritization.

Example: In this step, the deciding body will organize projects into chronological order, so everyone knows which projects are up when. It can be useful to use a PPM tool that automatically scores projects based on your organizations own strategic criteria.

Phase 5: Project Execution

Finally, once projects have gone through the formalities, you can go on your merry way with your well-formed initiatives, knowing that they have the full support of your organization, as well as support your organization fully.

Example: Leave the board – and get started!

Kanban Board Project Intake

Project Intake Best Practices

I can recommend many best practices for your project intake process. They are:

  • Define Clear Criteria
    If everyone at your organization knows what is expected of them and their projects during the process, it can be a little less painful. People know how to structure their project proposals, and what the organization’s goals are as a whole, thus leading to more streamlined and targeted project proposals.
  • Ensure Stakeholder Involvement
    Make sure all relevant parties are involved in the process. This means that no one should ever fall to the wayside, and that decisions are consistently communicated clearly to anyone who is involved or invested in the project.
  • Conduct Regular Reviews
    No project intake process is perfect, and therefore there is constantly room to grow. Conduct regular reviews of your process to know that you are actually getting to accomplish what your organization needs. This ensures that you don’t keep a process in place that truly is just a filler, and that you are better able to organize and prioritize for your future.
  • Cut Through Formalities
    The project intake process can always seem like a tedious block in the way of your goals actually progressing. Therefore, it is for the best if the process only includes what is really needed. There is no point in creating process for the purpose of creating process. In other words, a project intake process is there so that your organization can achieve what it needs to. It’s counterintuitive if your process for project intake is too time-consuming and seems to only exist to make life hard for your employees.
  • Leverage PPM Tools
    A great PPM tool like Meisterplan can offer a wide variety of incentives when it comes to the project intake process. In the Board view, stakeholders can easily and plainly see what stage a certain project is in, as well as what other projects are currently in the pipeline for the rest of the organization. PPM tools are a great way to keep communication open and honest in a centralized location, and thus directly tie into the goals of a good project intake process.

If you want more details on this process, we have a great webinar to explore the intricacies of project intake!

We’ve also developed a Lean PPM process – a way of cutting through what you don’t need, and keeping what you do. Meisterplan is specifically made with this Lean PPM process in mind, and you can see it throughout every step of the project intake process in the tool.

Finish Line Project Intake


Project intake can feel like a painful process that does nothing but place obstacles in your way when you’re trying to execute your most important ideas. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, project intake can work to ensure that the right ideas get assigned to the right people at the right time.

Furthermore, it works to make sure that everyone is on the same page, and that the entire company has open communication, allowing everyone to align with each other from the ground up. A good project intake process can be invaluable – as long as you know how to work it.

If you have any questions about how to improve your processes, feel free to reach out to our experts to talk more about best practices! Happy Project Intaking from us here at Meisterplan.

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